“Increasing levels of abstraction and complexity frighten those for whom art is a means to attain a comfortable expression of calm, luxury, and delight.” – Bernar Venet
On a leisurely walk along the waterfront of Vancouver a few years ago, I noticed the sunset light illuminating the sculpture on the beach in the distance. I like the scale and resemblance of this piece to an organic form, like the rib bones of a whale. The title however refers to the precise mathematical specifications of the sculpture.
‘217.5 Arc x 13’ by Bernar Venet, photographed in fading sunset light, Vancouver, British Columbia
I quite enjoy large, abstract sculptural works and the ways that the natural light, landscape, and details of the setting can bring new perspectives and meaning to the piece. It is wonderful to encounter an opportunity to photograph such a scene when the conditions are right for an especially atmospheric sculpture study.
On a warm May afternoon aboard a small ship I watched as deep, swirling currents formed whirlpools in the channel ahead.Little did I know,I was about to have an unforgettable Seymour Narrows travel experience.
We had been fighting the tide for a while and making slow progress. As we reached Seymour Narrows, where the current can reach 15 knots, conditions warranted a cautious approach. Our ship anchored in a sheltered cove and we went ashore for a safe view of the treacherous channel
After a short zodiac trip to a small dock and a trailhead, we were welcomed by a bright grassy path leading toward a dark forest. The cool air of the shade on Maud Island Trail offered relief from the heat. As we hiked up the rocky path. a view of water gradually appeared through the trees. We had reached a mossy bluff overlooking Seymour Narrows below.
Seymour Narrows & Ripple Rock History
These waterways and the surrounding landscape are the traditional territory of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation. It is noted in their background & historical information that “The regularly treacherous waterways and passages of places like Seymour Narrows, Race Point and Arran Rapids were utilized strategically in warfare to successfully defend against raids by northern tribes of the Haida and Bella Coola.” It has been fascinating to learn more about the rich regional history and modern-day presence of the Wei Wai Kum indigenous communities here.
Seymour Narrows is a short and powerful stretch of water in British Columbia, Canada. It is part of the Discovery Channel, along the Northeastern coast of Vancouver Island. Along with being an important shipping channel, it is known for being the site of an enormous man-made explosion. In 1958 the underwater mountain Ripple Rock was “moved” to make transiting the narrows safer. If you are curious, there is an excellent short film and more information about this bit of Ripple Rock history here.
Meditations on the Tide
We spent some time resting on cushions of deep moss along the top of the bluff, watching the rushing water below.
Snowy mountain peaks rose in the distance as small boats rode the tide South through the channel. Whirlpools swirled across the glittering dark blue and silvery water. An especially frothy patch of water churned where Ripple Rock lurks beneath the waves.
Returning to the ship, our skipper decided that the timing was right to catch a sunset slack tide through the narrows. Our overnight anchorage was just a little further North at Deep Bay. By the time we entered Seymour Narrows the whirlpools and rapids had calmed. A cold wind swept down from the mountains. I particularly enjoy these moments on the bow, quiet and contemplative. I had read about Seymour Narrows, but experiencing it firsthand has put into perspective just how powerful the changing tides can be in this part of the world.
This was an especially memorable afternoon and a fun travel photography challenge, as the conditions changed quickly and often. Find my Maud Island/Seymour Narrows travel gallery here, and my full expedition story here. As of the writing of this post, I still have many more photos to edit and stories from this journey to assemble, so be sure to check back or even better, subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss future updates.
Last year’s marathon road-trip to California offered the welcome opportunity to experience some new atmospheric landscapes. The stark terrain of Idaho felt particularly surreal, after the rolling prairies of North Dakota and forested mountains of Montana. I have recently had a chance to sit down and edit my photos from Craters of the Moon National Monument.
The geology of the Snake River Plain in Idaho includes a fascinating array of volcanic features, and photography at Craters of the Moon was full of inspiring details.
The calderas and lava flows are the result of a periodically active volcanic rift zone. The last eruption took place around 2,000 years ago, making this a relatively ‘young’ place. Only well-adapted species can survive in the harsh conditions of the region, and it is home to several distinct ecosystems rich in plant and animal diversity.
I found the tenacious, twisted trees to be especially striking in the soft light of dusk. Surrounded by dark scree and rubble, the bristling green growth seems almost improbable. Yet trees, shrubs, grasses and lichen are everywhere, scattered sparsely across piles of basalt. These hardy species use what little soil their roots can find in the rocky ground, and over time can establish diverse communities in unlikely places.
The colour palette and texture of the volcanic environment shifted throughout the day. Golden grasses and blue-green sagebrush in contrast against lava flows. Fast-moving clouds in pearlescent shades of blue and pink, disappearing over distant mountains.
Blue summer skies and fluffy white clouds mirrored in the water of Whirlpool Lake at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. The dazzling colours of summer are fleeting in Canada, and in this scene there are vivid blues and greens. The dark forest recedes along the horizon while a breeze skims the surface of the lake, softening the reflection of trees and sky.
“After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.”
This is Treaty 2 Territory, land of the Métis, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux).
I encountered this moment of wilderness reflection on a short summer hike last year. Exploring Riding Mountain National Park means many opportunities to view lovely small lakes like this, and I am always hoping to spot some wildlife on the opposite shore. The breeze (mostly) kept the mosquitos away, and nearby meadows were bursting with late summer wildflowers. As a photographer, a landscape reflection like this is impossible to resist. The scenery and elements allow for beautiful compositions and studies of balance, which I particularly enjoy capturing.
There is often a sense of serenity in photos of natural reflections. When I look at these images now, I am transported to a calm, breathtaking time and place. The texture of air moving across water reminds me of vintage glass windows and how their rippled texture smudges the colours in the sky. The mirror-like surface of the water makes the natural light even more magical. Whether viewed as abstract textural art or as a study in landscape reflection photography, Whirlpool Lake in Manitoba is a special spot that I hope to photograph again soon.
I didn’t set out to find such a powerful weather photography subject, it was just another blustery, spring day on the California coast. With scattered rain showers and blank overcast skies accompanying my drive south from Santa Cruz to Monterey. With glimpses of the ocean and soft, rolling hills opening to loamy and verdant valleys, the scenery along Highway 1 can be beautiful in any weather.
After turning inland through fields of strawberries and artichokes then skimming across the Elkhorn Slough with its swath of inter-tidal wetlands, the highway bends back to meet the ocean as Monterey appears ahead. Approaching the stretch of sand dunes that mark the beginning of expansive, wild beaches just South of the Salinas River, I felt the brute force of a powerful wind blowing in across the Pacific ocean. Then I noticed the clouds.
At first just a heavy smudge on the horizon, an undefined darker grey in a sky already laced with rain and mist. These clouds quickly became distinct above the white-capped Monterey Bay; fast-moving, dark and dramatic, their undersides carved into undulating ribbons of green and blue with a curtain of heavy rain following close behind. I had my camera with me that day, and immediately pulled off the highway to a small beach access and overlook.
The air felt charged with raw energy and a few other brave souls had stopped to take in the storm as it blew quickly onshore; I managed to capture only a handful of images before the heavy rains arrived.
I will never forget the exhilaration of watching the strange sky above, and the speed with which the entire system passed from sea to land was truly incredible. Glad to get whatever photos I could of this storm, I take them as proof that bad weather makes for excellent landscape photography, and the best camera is the one you have with you (though it doesn’t hurt to carry some of your better gear around from time to time). This surreal cloudscape scene is included in my collection of sky and cloud photo prints, featuring a variety of dramatic clouds and abstract skies.